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Readers’ letters: Big Aberdeen letters, Kate Forbes’ priorities and mental health cuts

Plans have been submitted for giant letters spelling out Aberdeen. Image: Aberdeen Inspired
Plans have been submitted for giant letters spelling out Aberdeen. Image: Aberdeen Inspired

Sir, – I note the recent announcement that Aberdeen Inspired have commissioned a large letters display to be used in the city centre as a tourist attraction.

The debate about whether this will be effective will quite rightly divide opinion. Appropriate placement and adequate maintenance will be key.

One aspect of this project that should concern Aberdonians is the timescale, production and budgeting. Boring topics to most but, in this instance, possibly symptomatic of what, in my opinion, is the ineffectiveness of certain business organisations to do anything in a prompt, efficient and cost-effective manner.

The original idea was mooted by the Vanguard group, a voluntary offshoot of AGCC nearly five years ago. The design, construction and operation planning was handled by long experienced practitioners. In order to access funding it then had to be handed over to Aberdeen Inspired for completion. That was nearly four years ago. AI then appeared to choose not to treat the project as a priority. Indeed they declined to pursue an achievable launch schedule to coincide with the Spectra festival of light. Sidelining many of the original team, they have now belatedly decided to proceed with the project.

My concern is not so much the usual selective way that things seem to get done in Aberdeen. It’s that these unnecessary delays mean that big letters will now be much more commonly utilised in other cities, hence less relevant, and that the cost, I’m sure, will not have decreased. Hopefully, technically, this proves more reliable than the previous street sign lighting project tackled by AI.

How is this furthering the business interests of city-centre traders? There needs to be an alternative method for ACC to fund cultural and city centre creative enterprises that doesn’t involve the current effective monopoly enjoyed by an organisation that, to many, doesn’t seem to have to stand by its variable track record. Aberdeen deserves better sooner!

Sandy McRobbie. Union Grove, Aberdeen.

MP claiming gigabit city success while other constituents suffer

Sir, – Drew Hendry MP may rightly be boastful to have secured a gigabit city in Inverness (P&J February 17) according to his lengthy letter. The funds for doing so were available, the infrastructure of cable ducts throughout an already cabled city were available, and the trained fibre installation teams available too, making the whole undertaking more doable in the timescales.

Currently, the much-publicised R100 flagship programme the SNP promised for every business and home customer to be using a minimum 30 Mbit/s speed has stalled and the 2021 completion date has not been met, indeed on the information site completion will be around 2028.

Mr Hendry appears to be milking credit for this Inverness scheme through the efforts of many others, as he ignores communities further afield, struggling with low speeds, and as a Highland MP he has been very quiet on the A9 road dualling he promised to have completed by 2025, also the start of the A96 dualling promised to have started, with the Inverness to Nairn section (including bypass) to be completed by 2022.

Yellow fiber optic cable with lighting of fiber optics and high speed network router switch in a technology data center room.
Image: Shutterstock

His Highland constituents are already raging at SNP incompetence with ferries serving, or not serving, the lifeline sailings from west coast ports from Ullapool to Arran, as ageing vessels and botched builds for replacements languish in the docks around Glasgow.

Given SNP current turmoil in dealing with strikes across schools, emergency services, council budgets, health service funding and care service commitments, I hope he has enough left in the tank to come out of his corner and really fight for the aforementioned schemes he promised on the hustings but – conveniently – it will be the case others are to blame as his best-laid plans gang aft agley, an’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain.

Angus McNair. Clochan, Buckie.

Next FM must focus on saving Scotland

Sir, – So it’s goodbye to Nicola Sturgeon after eight years steering the Scottish Government and the SNP. I think it’s a good time to change out – Scotland is at a crossroads politically and we need new blood to steer us towards the future most Scots want.

As with all politicians, she has a mixed legacy – she can be pleased that she has been able to deliver a more caring, social democratic suite of policies in line with the left-leaning politics of most Scots.

She was a safe pair of hands during the Covid pandemic, with her press conferences being preferred by many in England over those delivered by Tory politicians.

Kate Forbes standing in between two large metal doors that she's holding open
Kate Forbes, one of the SNP leadership candidates. Image: Jason Hedges

She and her party also tried hard to soften the hard Brexit and related economic challenges being imposed on the UK and Scotland, but this led nowhere, with none of the multiple Tory PMs being even remotely interested in creating consensus across the UK or in consulting in a genuine way with devolved governments, including Scotland’s.

She has tried hard to protect Scotland from the depredations of Tory rule without control of the purse strings, and it seems to me that the next FM has to recognise that Scotland has to stop trying to save the UK from the Tories and concentrate on saving Scotland.

For me voting Labour is not the answer, they have moved to the right politically to chase English Tory voters, are anti-EU and anti-union, and in any case, we can expect to see the Tories back in office at some point in the future.

Even without an independence campaign we are seeing a 50-50 split across both camps. It’s not a good look for the British establishment when at least half of Scots want to leave the mother ship. Politicians need to remember that they are democrats – and democrats listen to their voters.

The next FM needs to deliver an independence referendum so this issue can be put to bed and we can move towards building that fairer, wealthier, happier society that Scotland is capable of, and deserves.

Willie Dunbar. Deeside Gardens, Aberdeen.

Other AFC linked to Aberdonian insight

Sir, – Take heart Dons supporters, the other AFC heading the English Premier League is the product of the insight of Sir John Anderson FRSE KB who was born on December 9 1814 in Woodside, Aberdeen.

He was a Scottish inventor and engineer, best known for revolutionising the production of armaments at the Royal Arsenal.

David Danskin, born in 1863 in Burntisland, Fife, lived and worked in the Arsenal at Woolwich, an area controlled by cricket and rugby.

Danskin decided to form a football club.

Aberdeen FC in spain
Image: Ross Johnston/Newsline Media

A total of 18 men put in sixpence and David put in three shillings and, behold, a football club was born in October 1866.

It was named Dial Square which referred to one of the munition factory workshops, and for their first game they defeated the Eastern Wanderers from the Isle of Dogs 6-0. The club was renamed the Royal Arsenal then Woolwich Arsenal.

In 2019, Arsenal unveiled the restored grave of founder David Danskin with a special ceremony.

Frederick Stewart. Alder Drive, Portlethen.

Bridging fiscal gap without foundation

Sir, – Regular correspondent Herbert Petrie (Letters, February 20) writes that break up would give Scotland control of our tax take.

Until nationalists accept that Scotland runs a deficit there is no point expecting them to provide an explanation of how they would bridge the fiscal gap. It is easier to deny the problem than solve it.

Donald MacKenzie. Crown Drive, Inverness.

Rules book is badly in need of revision

Sir, – Such is the lot of a 17-year-old in Scotland – they are way beyond the age they can marry, vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and decide what gender they desire to be but, if they have been really naughty and appear in court, their identity for legal reasons must be protected from the prying eyes of the public.

Surely, having already been able to make such momentous decisions, such secrecy cannot be because they are considered too immature to be responsible for their actions and deserve anonymity to protect their stupidity?

Ivan W. Reid. Kirkburn, Laurencekirk.

Scotland a country, UK is a unitary state

Sir, – I must thank Walter Service (Letters, February 22) for proving my point that Scotland would be much better off as an independent country.

Firstly, he doesn’t seem to realise that the UK is not a country, rather a unitary state consisting of constituent nations and territories. Scotland however is a country, an ancient nation of five-and-a-half million people and one of three countries plus a region of Ireland which make up the UK population of approximately 67 million people.

For him to talk about our share as regards size of population makes it clear we are losing out big time when you remember that Scotland is allocated some of this share on things which we wouldn’t vote for or benefit from and where our massive contributions just go into a big pot called the UK Treasury.

The Saltire and Union Jack flags are raised on Arthur's Seat with a view of Edinburgh Castle ahead of the Scottish Referendum
Image: Shutterstock

There has been much discussion of late about various crises that the Scottish Government is having to face but it’s fairly clear that the UK is broken and, had we control of all our finances, we could be putting it where Scots think it should be spent.

It would not only make our country richer but our NHS properly funded with better infrastructure and happier, healthier people.

As a small energy-rich country we could address all of these issues and more but only with the powers that come from full control in the same way that other countries of similar size to us but with less assets do. To close, there was no need for hindsight to predict that Brexit and other Tory policies would be a disaster for Scotland. Most Scots saw that and voted against it. That’s UK democracy for you, Mr Service.

Herbert Petrie. Parkhill, Dyce, Aberdeen.

Greens may see red over leadership bid

Sir, – It seems that Nicola Sturgeon saw the warning signs and resigned when the going was good as the SNP are now in self-destruct mode with the selection of their new leader developing into a dangerous division over religion.

I can see the leadership battle in the SNP spilling over, ending the coalition with the Green Party and triggering an impromptu Scottish election this spring.

Dennis Forbes Grattan. Mugiemoss Road, Bucksburn.

FM hopefuls losing sight of priorities

Sir, – In a bid to boost her flagging SNP leadership bid, Kate Forbes tweeted “the election is about independence, who is best equipped, and who has the best plan to achieve it”.

This could just as easily have come from Humza Yousaf, or any of the other candidates who might throw their hat in the ring.

For all of them, it is all about independence, so education attainment gaps, drug deaths, violent crime, the imploding NHS and the many other issues prioritised by the Scottish people will just have to take a back seat.

Hopefully, this will only be the case until the next Holyrood election when the SNP Greens will be chucked out, regardless of who is leader.

Keith Shortreed. Cottown of Gight, Methlick.

‘Parcel of rogues’ have had their day

Sir, – I found Ian Larkin’s choice of quotes on support for independence amusing (Letters, February 20).

Given the present band of miscreants and charlatans that have been a part of the Westminster government for more than a decade, there is absolutely no doubt, if he were around today, Burns would be directing his “parcel of rogues” comment in the exact same direction as he did in 1791.

Similarly, to quote the Flower of Scotland (practically the anthem for Scottish independence) lyric “those days are past now, and in the past they must remain”, and attempt to link it positively to support the union shows an incredible level of naivety or arrogance on Mr Larkin’s part.

However, to continue the lyrics – “But we can still rise now and be a nation again, that stood against them, proud Edward’s army, and sent them homewards to think again”.

As much as he may try, even he cannot argue that the only way Scotland can rise and “be a nation again” is through independence!

Douglas Black. Kingsford, Alford.

Yousaf’s record of failure

Humza Yousaf launched his bid to become first minister. Image: PA.

Sir, – The race to become the new SNP leader with three candidates for the job got off to a bad start with senior SNP MSPs backstabbing Kate Forbes on day one.

Politics is a dirty business within the ranks of the SNP but it would appear that despite the worst crisis ever recorded in NHS Scotland, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is to be rewarded for his failures with the leadership role and will become our new first minister.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Mugiemoss Road, Bucksburn.

Scrap cuts to mental health

Sir, – As a coalition of organisations that support vulnerable children and young people, many of whom have mental health problems, we share the concerns of many over a proposed £38 million cut to mental health spending in the final vote on the Scottish Budget.

It should be noted that we were already experiencing a mental health emergency in Scotland, even before Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis took hold. These have worsened an already devastating situation for many children and young people, resulting in a perfect storm of challenges.

Close up back view of caring mom touch comfort upset teenage daughter having difficulties with studying at home, supportive loving mother caress console sad teen child suffering from school problems
Image: Shutterstock

It, therefore, beggars belief that, in the face of a mental health tsunami, the Scottish Government is set to cut the mental health budget. Combined with this, an already tight budget will have to stretch even further to keep pace with soaring inflation.

With the resultant personal cost to those concerned and their families, as well as to the economy overall, we need to invest more, not less, in our mental health services. The situation we are currently in could potentially lead to a lost generation of vulnerable children and young people who are missing out on the support they need.

To address this, we must ensure our mental health services are protected, and would urge the Scottish Government to reconsider these cuts and commit to increasing investment, ensuring that our children and young people receive the high-quality care they need when they need it.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition.